His 1997 obit in the New York Times – he died at age 64 of an aneurysm – called the 1972 Pulitzer Prize winner the “Voice of the Working Class.”
“In his column of Sept. 23, 1981, Mr. Royko sought to explain President Ronald Reagan’s policies of ‘hacking away’ at Federal programs for the poor ‘while spending more and more on the military.’ ‘Contrary to popular belief,’ Mr. Royko wrote, ‘it’s much wiser to take money from the poor than the rich.'”
It’s useful because it speaks to today’s conservatives who seek to co-opt Dr. King’s message:
Millions in his firing squad
FBI agents are looking for the man who pulled the trigger and surely they will find him.
But it doesn’t matter if they do or they don’t. They can’t catch everybody, and Martin Luther King was executed by a firing squad that numbered in the millions.
They took part, from all over the country, pouring words of hate into the ear of the assassin.
The man with the gun did what he was told. Millions of bigots, subtle and obvious, put it in his hand and assured him he was doing the right thing.
It would be easy to point at the Southern redneck and say he did it. But what of the Northern disk-jockey-turned-commentator, with his slippery words of hate every morning?
What about the Northern mayor who steps all over every poverty program advancement, thinking only of political expediency, until riots fester, whites react with more hate and the gap between the races grows bigger?
Toss in the congressman with the stupid arguments against busing. And the pathetic women who turn out with eggs in their hands to throw at children…
They all took their place in King’s firing squad.
And behind them were the subtle ones, those who never say anything bad but just nod when the bigot throws out his strong opinions.
He is actually the worst, the nodder is, because sometimes he believes differently but he says nothing. He doesn’t want to cause trouble. For Pete’s sake, don’t cause trouble!
So when his brother-in-law or his card-playing buddy from across the alley spews out the racial filth, he nods…
The bullet that hit King came from all directions. Every two-bit politician or incompetent editorial writer found in him, not themselves, the cause of our racial problems.
It was almost ludicrous. The man came on the American scene preaching nonviolence from the first day he sat at the wrong end of a bus. He preached it in the North and was hit with rocks. He talked it the day he was murdered.
Hypocrites all over this country would kneel every Sunday morning and mouth messages to Jesus Christ. Then they would come out and tell each other, after reading the papers, that somebody should string up King, who was living Christianity like few Americans ever have.
Maybe it was the simplicity of his goal that confused people or the way he dramatized it.
He wanted only that black Americans have their constitutional rights, that they get an equal shot at this country’s benefits, the same thing we give to the last guy who jumped off the boat.
So we killed him…
Last Sunday night the President said he was quitting after this term. He said this country is so filled with hate it might help if he got out. Four days later we killed a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
We have pointed a gun at our own head and we are squeezing the trigger. And nobody we elect is going to help us. It is our head and our finger.